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Trinity: Beget/Begotten

“Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. and there is none comparable unto Him.” Surah al-Ikhlas (112:1-4).

Of course, the relationship between the Father and the Son were not patterned after the pagan gods who gave birth to other gods. The Word, as the begotten Son, does not refer to begetting carnally.   It refers to divine personhood and its intellectual self-generation of thought and knowledge.  It refers to the fact that in the essence of Allah, there is a distinction between the Knower and the Known. What God as Knower knows He knows through His own essence. God does not depend upon creation to possess knowledge.

Human beings are born into this world a blank slate, a tabula raza.   We gain knowledge of the world through our senses.   And, if a particular sense is lacking, a person will not have a true knowledge of that particular aspect of the world.  For example, if a person were born blind, he or she will not know color or the wonders of a beautiful sunset.  So, for human beings, we gain knowledge of the world through observation, studying, and experimentation.

By contrast, Allah does not gain knowledge of the world by learning through observation, studying, and experimentation.  Allah is the sole source of His own knowledge.  For example, the mind of Allah knew stars before there were any stars.  Allah brought these stellar bodies into existence from the creative genius of His own infinite mind and power.  Allah said, ‘Be’ and they were.  Allah did not say, ‘Be,’ and then learn the nature of stars.  Rather, Allah pre-knew the nature of stars and imparted their natures to them when He created them.

So, human beings obtain their knowledge of the universe from the universe itself.  Human knowledge comes to the human mind from the universe via the senses.  Divine knowledge of the universe finds its source in the mind of Allah alone.  Everything that Allah knows to exists, exists.  Everything that Allah knows not to exists, does not exist.

Analogously, the same type of relationship exists between a painter and an a person who merely views a painting.  The painter has a mental concept of the painting before the concept is generated on canvas.  By contrast, others who view the painting appreciate painter’s skill by looking at the painting.  So, analogously, we gain our knowledge of the universe like a person viewing a painting.  While Allah, like a creative artisan, pre-knows everything before it even has existence.  There is a difference between the painter and Allah.  The painter must use materials that are already in existence, such as, paint, paper, pigments, and brushes.  Allah says, ‘Be,’ and the objects of His creative Mind and power are brought into existence. 

Of course, it is important to note the essential difference between the painter and his painting.  The painter is of human essence while his paintings are of material essence.  However, if the painter had a son, they would both be of human essence.  The Self and Al-Kalima of Allah are identically the same essence.   Therefore, the terms Father and Son are appropriate to describe the relationships within divine personhood.  Al-Kalima is One, Eternal, and Infinite.  By contrast, human thought is only a mental activity and not personhood itself.

In conclusion, the mind of Allah is its own source of knowledge.  Therefore, it is appropriate to use the terms, Begetter and Begotten of the personhood of Allah.  This is because the Self of Allah begets or generates its own Word or knowledge.  Even before the creation of the universe, the Mind of Allah contemplated and knew His own Being and personhood with perfect and complete knowledge.

The person who is the Begetter is the Father.  The person who is the Begotten Word, Wisdom, and Knowledge is the Son.  The essence of Deity itself is totally the cause of its own infinite knowledge or Al-Kalima.  The Mind of Allah begets its own begotten Thought or Al-Kalima.  Allah’s infinite and perfect knowledge is completely self-generated and not caused by another.  Since both the Knower and Known are the same essence, they are termed Father and Son.

“Among the terms employed in Scripture to designate the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is the Word (John 1:1). This is understood by St. Thomas of the Verbum mentale, or intellectual concept. As applied to the Son, the name, he holds, signifies that He proceeds from the Father as the term of an intellectual procession, in a manner analogous to that in which a concept is generated by the human mind in all acts of natural knowledge. It is, indeed, of faith that the Son proceeds from the Father by a veritable generation. He is, says the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan Creed, begotten before all worlds”. But the Procession of a Divine Person as the term of the act by which God knows His own nature is rightly called generation. This may be readily shown. As an act of intellectual conception, it necessarily produces the likeness of the object known. And further, being Divine action, it is not an accidental act resulting in a term, itself a mere accident, but the act is the very substance of the Divinity, and the term is likewise substantial.”

From: “The Catholic Encyclopedia: The Blessed Trinity, (Section: Latin Theology: The Son).” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm#VI

Last edited 12/20/1999

Unity and Trinity

The charge of synthesis—linking other beings with Allah, and treating them as divine—is one charge that Muslims frequently make against Christianity.  The Qur’an states,

‘Do not say three, for God is one’ (an-Nisa 4:171).

‘They who say that Allah is Christ, Mary’s son, have blasphemed he who associates other with Allah, God will ban from Paradise’ (al-Maidah 5:75)

Millions of sincere folks are taken in by the stark simplicity of the Muslim’s argument that 1+1+1 cannot equal 1.

Nevertheless it is an axiom of philosophy that the most facile explanation is not necessarily the truest. And, this is the case regarding the correct understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Muhammad clearly reacted against the then current mythology of Arabia. This ancient mythology believed that Allah had three daughters, Uzza, Allat and Manat. A myth of this sort is far removed from our Trinitarian Creed which rests on the Scriptural truth that ‘ The Lord our God is One’ (Deuteronomy 6:4). Our Lord also confirmed the Shema (Mark 12:29) when he declared: “This is life eternal that they might know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

The word in dispute is ‘oneness’. Muslims insist that it must stand for a static numerical unit, whereas we see oneness in terms of dynamic unity—a unity moving forwards towards an end when God will be all in all. Muslims regards oneness as a stark singularity, and exaggerate Allah’s aloofness and distance from men. He could not be described as loving, pitying, and suffering. Yet paradoxically the Qur’an speaks extensively of his anger, approval, hatred and affection. As a concept, incarnation was found acceptable to sophisticated nations in antiquity. Brilliant philosophers—Hindu, Greek and German—saw it as a reasonable means whereby the Divine would reach down and communicate with the creatures that He had created in His own image .

Natural phenomena belie the static numerical concept of oneness. Is there any entity of which we are aware that is an absolute indivisible unity, except a geometrical non-dimensional point? Space has three dimensions, length, breadth, and height. Time can be conceived only as past, present, and future. There are three primary colours in the spectrum of light. Our mental life operates on thinking, willing, and feeling. Yet each person is one not three.

Several levels of unity are conceivable, familial political, and atomic. Long ago, the atom was thought to be indivisible, for that is what atomos means in the Greek language. Now we know that it consists of electrons, protons and neutrons, and that it is a unity that can be split. Most intimate of all unity is the family unit that consists of two, three, or more persons.

May we not then fairly assume that beyond these observable unities there lies a deeper, greater more stable oneness, binding three persons of the Trinity in one essence, and loving reaching out to its creation? Augustine of Tunis expressed it thus: God is love, love is eternal, and God needed an object of everlasting love. The Father loved the Son, the Son loved the Spirit and the Holy Spirit loved the father’ Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image’.

The Qur’an admits that Christ, the Son of Mary, is God’s Word and Spirit (4:171). This is a recognizable deformation of the truth. But it concedes enough for believers to see in the Word and the Spirit the completion of God’s unity.

Last edited 07/19/2001